SINGAPORE - Operations at Changi Airport Terminal 2 will be suspended for 18 months from May 1 to save on running costs, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Monday (April 6).
Changi Airport Group (CAG) said it decided to do so in view of "the steep decline in passenger traffic and the likelihood that air travel demand will not return to pre-Covid-19 levels in the near term".
The suspension will allow CAG and its partners to save on costs in utilities and cleaning, and optimise resources across its terminals to better match the low demand and airlines' flight operations, it added.
CAG added that it has significantly scaled down its operations at Terminal 4, due to the very small number of flights there.
It will consider suspending operations at T4 temporarily should the remaining airlines choose to suspend or adjust their flight schedule. The aim would be to resume operations quickly when airlines confirm the resumption of flights, CAG said.
With the suspension of T2 operations, airlines will be reallocated across the remaining terminals.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) will consolidate its operations in Terminal 3, Mr Khaw told the House.
"Importantly, it also allows us to speed up the current upgrading works at T2 and shorten the project time by up to one year," he said. The ongoing T2 expansion works were scheduled to be completed in 2024.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had said last month that the number of passengers arriving at the airport has fallen by more than 90 per cent since the Covid-19 outbreak.
The reduced demand arising from the outbreak and travel restrictions worldwide has hit SIA hard, with the carrier cutting 96 per cent of its scheduled flights till end-April.
Mr Khaw told the House that the Government is mindful that the global connectivity is of fundamental importance to Singapore.
He said the air hub at Changi - anchored by SIA - is crucial to Singapore's role as a business, manufacturing and research and development hub.
"If it were to collapse, it will undermine our ability to recover from the crisis. Many Singaporeans depend on Changi Airport for a living," Mr Khaw noted.
This is why the Government has moved to support Changi to prevent loss of strategic capabilities and protect its hard-earned position, he said.
The minister also noted that the airlines in the SIA Group - SIA, SilkAir and Scoot - continue to run about 40 return passenger flights a week to capitals in Asean, and economic hubs in Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States.
SIA has also deployed some of its passenger aircraft to carry only cargo.
"Together, these services fly in essential goods amidst the global supply disruptions, such as medical supplies, food and other useful cargoes," said Mr Khaw.
Unlike other countries, Singapore has kept its sea port open throughout the coronavirus outbreak and is committed to keeping it open, he said.
"We had put in place precautionary measures to ensure a safe working environment for staff and crew. With this, our port continues to service the world and safeguard our essential supplies," he added.
While Singapore will recover from the Covid-19 pandemic in the longer term, it will not be a simple return to the status quo, Mr Khaw noted.
He said that as global trade flows shift, the efficiency and connectivity of Singapore's sea port and airport will become even more critical.
The pandemic is also likely to have a lasting impact on air travel and airport operations, which in turn would have implications for the planning of Terminal 5, said Mr Khaw.
"Fortunately, T5 was designed to be modular so that its construction can be scaled up or down as necessary," he added.
The mega terminal was scheduled to be completed around 2030, and was planned to be able to handle up to 50 million passengers annually in its initial phase.
Mr Khaw said Singapore has to play its part in reviving international transport links, and will support international organisations in such efforts.
"We will need to develop new global rules and guidelines to take into account the lessons learnt from this pandemic," he added.
"We also have to think about how to enhance capability across all regions, because the connectivity network is only as strong as its weakest link."